Expect upbeat speech by mayor
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
Expect Mayor Mufi Hannemann to offer a "five-year report card" of his administration when he gives his sixth, and possibly last, state of the city address tonight on the grounds of the Frank F. Fasi Civic Center.
But don't expect too much talk on the estimated $140 million shortfall in the city's upcoming budget or the anticipated furlough of city employees this coming year.
"I think what (the mayor) ... would like to do would be to get away from all the gloom and doom kind of news we're hearing and instead present a picture of hope and optimism," said Hannemann spokes-man Bill Brennan.
The mayor is not expected to spend too much time on the city's budget situation, and the likelihood of furloughs and some property tax increases, which likely will be addressed in more detail when Hannemann presents the City Council with his budget, due March 1.
The Hannemann administration last week gave some hints about how it is dealing with its budget issues, however. Managing director Kirk Caldwell told the House Finance Committee that the city is eyeing increases in property taxes on residential properties that are not owner-occupied, but is not intending to propose increasing taxes on owner-occupied properties, which became a separate tax category this year.
It's widely speculated that Hannemann will resign as mayor by July 25 to run for governor.
Don't expect him to talk about that, either.
"His immediate political future involves him being the mayor of the City and County of Honolulu," Brennan said, when asked if the mayor will drop any hints on his political plans.
Hannemann will outline "specific projects and ideas that will help pull the city out of its economic slump," Brennan said.
There will be mentions of next year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, as well as of transportation improvements, including the $5.5 billion mass transit project, transit-oriented development and public/private partnerships, Brennan said.
Hannemann will also likely talk about investing in roads, sewers and other infrastructure improvements, and the environment, Brennan said.
City Council Chairman Todd Apo said that besides mass transit, the budget and the economy, he wants Hannemann to provide more details on how the administration will deal with longstanding wastewater system issues.
Apo said he'd also like to hear the administration's plan for the transit-oriented development sites that will go along the major stops of the proposed rail line.
"I think the state of the city address is a great opportunity for him to highlight that," he said.
Frank Lavoie, chairman of the Downtown Neighborhood Board, said he wants Hannemann to address more than just rail and the economy.
"I would like him to address the continuing situation in Chinatown and to make sure we keep the area clean and safe for the residents," Lavoie said.
Waipahu Neighborhood Board chairman George Yakowenko said he'd also like the mayor to talk about safety and crime.
Everything from violent crime to graffiti and littering appear to be increasing, he said.
The only other time the speech has been made in the evening was when then-Mayor Jeremy Harris gave his final speech in the courtyard of Hono- lulu Hale in January 2004. The state-of-the-city speech tradition began during the latter part of Harris' tenure.
Brennan said there's no real reason it's taking place at night other than that Hannemann likes to change things up. In the past, the mayor has given the speech at venues such as the Hawai'i Theatre and in the Mission Memorial auditorium.